Factory and Warehouse Lighting: Thinking Inside the Box

To enhance lighting inside the big industral box, developers are hiring high-profile architects to design these warehouses and factories with a luxury look. Skylights, glass curtain walls, ornamental awnings and lush landscaping-for warehouses? Yes, it's happening from New York to California.

The 16 buildings that make up GPS Logistics, which is located in the World Houston International Business Center, feature aluminum canopies, green reflective glass to bring in natural light and decorative light sconces on exterior walls. In a June 18, 2003, Wall Street Journal article, a GPS Logistics employee described the company's move from its old Chicago warehouses to new digs in Houston as moving from slums to a luxury neighborhood.

Skylights contribute more to industrial lighting than mere aesthetics. In areas where sunlight enters the work area through windows and skylights, automatic lighting controls reduce light output or turn off lamps when not needed. Energy-saving daylight harvesting saves money and improves employee morale.

The combination and automated control of natural and artificial light will be the wave of the future as the inevitable mandates for more-effective energy use become standard policy. This is a particularly lucrative area for contractors who can master integrated building systems and lighting design.

Solatube International Inc., the innovator of the tubular skylight, has changed product emphasis from the home improvement market to logistics facilities. Since the launch of its SolaMaster product line in late 2000, Solatube has created demand for compact, modular skylights in commercial buildings.

“In warehouse applications, we are seeing installations as quick as 15 minutes per skylight,” said Robert Westfall, Solatube International vice president of Sales and Marketing. “Because the Solatubes are more compact than traditional box skylights, you don't need to open up nearly as much of the roof for installation, so you have just 1 to 2 percent roof penetration versus 5 to 10 percent with box skylights. The quick and easy installation reduces downtime.”

The affordable price, quick installation and short energy payback make Solatubes a good fit for logistics facilities. The 21-inch-diameter units provide good lighting in open production areas as well as between pallet-racking aisles, allowing workers better visibility to complete their tasks.

Federated Logistics, a firm that coordinates merchandise distribution, logistics functions and vendor technology for Federated Department Stores, installed 800 Solatube tubular skylights in Federated's East Los Angeles facility. Natural lighting enables Federated to do better quality furniture repairs, resulting in fewer returns and increased profits. After compiling savings in its Los Angeles operation, Federated installed tubular skylights in more of its 2 million square feet of logistics space.

Snack giant Frito Lay recently installed 120 Solatube skylights in the manufacturing and warehouse areas of its Visalia, Calif., facility. The units enabled Frito Lay to turn off roughly 70 percent of the ambient lighting fixtures during the day, coinciding with the peak demand periods assessed by the electric utility. Even on overcast and foggy days, there is still enough natural light for maintenance to turn off 50 percent of lighting fixtures. Frito Lay plans to automate the lights in areas served by the Solatubes with an energy-management system to optimize savings.

Target Corp. also uses Solatubes to enhance energy efficiency in its 1.6-million-square-foot distribution facility in Shafter, Calif. More than 330 units were installed in the shipping and receiving department, with more units planned for a second facility underway in Rialto, Calif.

Aqua Lung, a manufacturer of scuba diving and snorkeling equipment headquartered in Vista, Calif., noticed an immediate 33-percent reduction in site-wide electricity consumption after it installed almost 200 Solatube skylights. Paul Claybagh, facilities manager, said they selected Solatube because product quality and pricing were right. Besides a short payback time, employees respond positively to the natural light.

HRV ballasts save big bucks

In 2003, Universal Lighting Technologies introduced the ULTim5 line of T-5 HO ballasts, the maximum energy- saving solution for high-bay fluorescent lighting applications. High-range voltage (HRV) ballasts are suitable for applications from 347 to 480 volts and feature instant-start technology for maximum energy savings. To ensure safety, all ULTim5 products have end-of-lamp-life shutdown circuitry.

The Ferragamo USA Warehouse lighting retrofit in Secaucus, N.J., used Universal's T-5 HO ballasts in a project managed by Public Energy Solutions (PES), Paramus, N.J. In late 2003, PES replaced 287 8-foot lamp fixtures in the warehouse office area and lower-level lighting above the shoe rack order fulfillment area with electronic instant-start ballasts and F32T8 lamps.

In June 2004, PES removed 209 high-bay metal-halide fixtures using 445 watts of power each and installed 207 new four-lamp fluorescent high-bay fixtures built by RENOVA Lighting Systems.

Ferragamo saw dramatic improvements in light quality, illumination uniformity, color rendering and light distribution throughout the warehouse. The project improved lighting for workers in every part of the facility. Ferragamo expects the retrofit to pay for itself in three years, saving more than $70,000 in maintenance and energy costs during the next five years. A rebate from New Jersey's Clean Energy Program sweetened the deal.

Statco's Jersey City product warehouse also used PES to upgrade lighting in 3,000 fixtures. The facility replaced 8-foot, two-lamp hooded fixtures and 8-foot, six-lamp hooded fixtures all with a new 8-foot “reflectorized” hood with two 4-foot T8 lamps and electronic ballasts.

PES president Keith Hartman said state-of-the-art reflectors, such as those now used at Statco, redirect light with precision angling that is otherwise lost in unfocused light dispersion. This results in maximum lighting efficiency from the fluorescent tubes.

Hartman said “relamping” an existing fluorescent magnetic ballast system to an electronic ballast system composed of 32W T8 lamps saves in excess of 73 watts on every four-lamp fixture without compromising light distribution and output.

“As a result, relamping in this manner translates to a savings of up to 50 percent. Because electronic ballasts operate at significantly lower temperatures, air conditioning costs are reduced, creating a secondary savings,” he said.

High-bays gaining momentum

Phil Henry, marketing director at Crescent Stonco, said that while 400-watt metal halide high-bays are still a popular way to light industrial spaces, he sees a movement toward 54-watt T-5 HO and 32-watt T8 linear fluorescent high-bays that offer numerous advantages over standard metal halide:

o Instant-on: T5/T8 provide instant-on in contrast to the three to five minutes HID takes to come up to full brightness

o Energy savings: 239 watts for a four-light T5 versus 454 watts for a 400W MH

o Better CRI (color rendering): 85 for T5/T8 with no color shifting versus 65 for MH

o Better lumen maintenance: T5/T8 lose only 5 percent of their initial rated lumens over their life versus standard MH, which loses 35 percent

o Better uniformity: MH high-bays provide light in a circular pattern versus linear fluorescents that provide light in a rectilinear pattern. Most industrial spaces are square or rectangles

o Emergency backup: T5/T8 can be supplied with a battery backup system while HID cannot

o Multiple switching: Most T5/T8 systems can use multiple ballasts to drive multiple lamps. The installing contractor can wire it so all or some of the lamps are on; HID requires bi-level which adds significant cost

Cool-burning LEDs offer safety, color advantages

LEDs have qualities that make them useful for factory-floor applications, according to Bruce Pelton, vice president of sales at OptiLED. The company's LED products are highly durable, robust and can endure high shock and stress levels. Since these products are water resistant, they withstand high levels of heat and humidity.

Because the heart of an LED is a tiny chip about the size of a grain of sugar, a properly designed fixture can provide excellent beam control and direction of emitted light. Some fixtures have a combination of optical elements that collimate and direct the light. A user can choose a beam angle that exactly matches the application and places the light only where needed.

In this way, the targeted area stands out from its environment and provides greater safety and less visual fatigue. Uncontrolled, high levels of illumination often produce harsh glare and shadows that decrease visual effectiveness in industrial workplaces.

Bulb failure can create safety issues in hazardous conditions. LEDs' long life is a major advantage in safety indicators and hard-to-reach areas in a factory or warehouse. LEDs not only prevent accidents, but also reduce bulb replacement and maintenance costs.

Because LEDs use much less energy than standard bulbs, industrial users can reduce electrical costs up to 80 percent by upgrading lighting systems. Return on initial investment can be achieved in as little as six months.

Unlike other LEDs on the market, OptiLED's products work with most standard commercial lighting fixtures and wall outlets. No costly fixtures or transformer upgrades are necessary. OptiLED's products use 90 percent less electricity than standard light bulbs, saving millions of dollars each year in replacement costs. Powered by a semiconductor chip instead of filament, OptiLED products can easily last 10 years.

LEDs produce the vast majority of their light within a very narrow band of color. This differentiates them from colored incandescent lamps, which filter out all but the color they aim to produce. Pure, vivid LED colors send clearer, more effective signals. For example, when used on a position indicator of a crane, LEDs clearly alert workers of the boom status and location.

Ordinary lights, even those that claim to reduce ultraviolet rays, often produce tremendous amounts of this damaging wavelength, which fades colors and damages sensitive materials. LEDs (except those intended to produce UV) produce virtually no harmful UV rays.

Traditional lights function by burning tungsten. The heat produced in this process can cause burns and drying, in addition to higher process-cooling loads. In contrast, LEDs produce only minute amounts of heat, resulting in lower cooling bills and eliminating the fire hazards of ordinary light bulbs.

Warehouse and manufacturing lighting has, indeed, been modernized, and for more improvements in energy efficiency and productivity, expect designers to keep on thinking inside the box. EC

WOODS writes for many consumer and trade publications. She can be reached at patwoods123@hotmail.com.


About the Author

Pat Woods

Freelance Writer
Pat Woods writes for many consumer and trade publications. She can be reached at patwoods123@hotmail.com" .

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